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‘I want to really remember what happened’

Mayor, officials honor World AIDS Day, promise continued fight

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World AIDS Day, Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade, Whitman-Walker Health
World AIDS Day, Vincent Gray, gay news, Washington Blade, Whitman-Walker Health

D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and three members of the City Council participated in a candlelight vigil to honor World AIDS Day on Sunday. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

About 75 people, including D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and three members of the City Council, raised candles outside a former Whitman-Walker Clinic building at 14th and S streets, N.W., on Sunday night as part of the city’s 26th Annual World AIDS Day commemoration.

“This day has been a day to remember all those who have been affected by the epidemic and to rededicate ourselves not only to continue the fight against HIV but actually finding a cure,” said Whitman-Walker Health Executive Director Don Blanchon, who served as host of the event.

“On this World AIDS Day we have great hope and optimism that we may see the end of this epidemic in the not too distant future,” Blanchon said. “In this year we have seen tremendous advances in the fight. We’ve seen dramatic improved statistics on HIV/AIDS in our city.”

Gray, who pointed to a significant drop in the HIV infection rate in D.C. over the past several years, said he too is optimistic that a cure for AIDS could come sooner rather than later.

“It’s hard to believe that it wasn’t many years ago that we talked about AIDS being a death sentence,” Gray said. “It is not a death sentence anymore. With the advancement of pharmacology, even those who have full-blown AIDS can live a rich life. As long as the people take their medicine and stay on their regimen they can live a full and rich life,” he said.

Blanchon said Whitman-Walker chose to hold this year’s World AIDS Day vigil at the 14th and S Street site because the building at 1407 S St., N.W., was the home of the then Whitman-Walker Clinic during the peak of the AIDS epidemic during the 1980s and early 1990s.

He noted that Whitman-Walker Clinic, which has since been renamed Whitman-Walker Health, moved most of its patient care programs out of the 1407 S St. building in 1993, when it opened its Elizabeth Taylor Building one block away at 14th and U streets, N.W. Whitman-Walker continued to operate other programs in the S Street building until 2007, according to Whitman-Walker spokesperson Chip Lewis.

The JBC Companies real estate development firm, which purchased the 1407 S St. building along with adjacent properties, last month, installed a sculptured vertical column called the Pillar of Fire on the sidewalk outside the building. A plaque at the base of the sculpture says it’s dedicated to the “Whitman-Walker Clinic and the many health care workers who served the LGBT community in this building from 1987 to 2008, the early years of the pandemic.”

D.C. Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who served as executive director of Whitman-Walker during its years at the 1407 S St. building, called on those attending the World AIDS Day gathering to remember the dedicated people who worked on AIDS-related causes in the early years of the epidemic.

“Like everybody else who is here, I want to remember. I don’t want to forget. I want to really remember what happened,” Graham said. “And when I was committing to think of the people that I wanted to mention, there became too many names. People who ought to have been with us today are not.”

Among the names Graham mentioned were Gene Frey, a Whitman-Walker official who died in the mid-1980s of AIDS and for whom Whitman-Walker’s Gene Frey Award has been named. Others named were longtime Whitman-Walker supporters and local AIDS advocates Hank Card and Dusty Cunningham, both of whom also died of AIDS.

Others attending the vigil were D.C. Council members David Grosso (I-At-Large) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6). Also attending the event was Dr. Joxel Garcia, director of the D.C. Department of Health; and Michael Kharfen, acting director of the DOH’s HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Administration (HAHSTA).

Rev. Courtenay Miller, pastor of Norbeck Community Church of Silver Spring, Md.; and Rabbi Laurie Green of Bet Mishpachah, the D.C.-based synagogue that caters to the LGBT community, led prayers at the vigil.

Blanchon praised Graham for taking the lead in guiding Whitman-Walker through some of the most difficult times when not many other clinics and health facilities were focusing on AIDS

“In this building a small group of dedicated men and women provided care and compassion when many others would not in our community,” Blanchon told the gathering. “In the epidemic’s darkest hours these individuals gave without question what is the best of humanity – compassion, respect and love in one’s hour of needed.”

He added, “So many of those individuals are no longer with us and yet they live on in our hearts and minds. They were our partners, our family members, our friends, and our work colleagues. And today they are the light and hope that we carry forward in the quest to find a cure for AIDS.”

World AIDS Day, gay news, Washington Blade, Whitman-Walker Health

The 2013 D.C. World AIDS Day vigil drew about 75 participants. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

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District of Columbia

Man charged with assaulting lesbian activist pleads guilty, gets 14 months in jail

Aiyi’nah Ford hit in head with barstool at Congress Heights restaurant in August

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Lesbian activist Aiyi’nah Ford was attacked in August. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

A D.C. Superior Court judge on Nov. 17 sentenced a 46-year-old D.C. man to 14 months in jail after he pleaded guilty in September to an assault charge for an incident in which he attacked lesbian activist Aiyi’nah Ford at a restaurant on Aug. 3

An arrest affidavit filed by D.C. police on Aug. 12 states that Donnell Anthony Peterson allegedly knocked Ford to the floor at the Player’s Lounge restaurant and bar in the city’s Congress Heights neighborhood before hitting her in the head twice with the metal legs of a barstool.

Ford told the Washington Blade that Peterson, who was a regular customer at Player’s Lounge as was she, assaulted her while repeatedly calling her a “dyke bitch” after the two got into a verbal argument over, among other things, the city’s violence interruption program. Ford said she told Peterson and others who were having a discussion that she considers the program to be ineffective and a “joke.”

According to court records, witnesses reported seeing Ford bleeding profusely from the head before an ambulance took her to George Washington University Hospital, where she received multiple stitches to treat a serious head wound.

Court records show that D.C. police, who were called to the scene at the time of the assault, initially charged Peterson with Assault With a Dangerous Weapon. The records show that Peterson through his attorney agreed in September to accept a plea bargain offer by prosecutors with the Office of the U.S. Attorney for D.C.

The offer called for lowering the charge to Assault With Significant Bodily Injury in exchange for pleading guilty with a promise by prosecutors to seek a sentence of no more than 14 month in jail.

The court records show that Superior Court Judge James A. Cromwell sentenced Peterson to 32 months of incarceration but suspended 18 months, requiring that he serve 14 months after which he would be released on probation. Court records show the probation was to last 18 months. Under court rules, if someone violates the terms of their probation, which almost always prohibits them from breaking the law or threatening a person they were charged with assaulting, the released person is ordered back to jail to serve the remaining time that had been suspended.

At the time Peterson was arrested in August a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s office, in response to a question from the Blade, declined to disclose why prosecutors chose not to classify Peterson’s assault against Ford as a hate crime based on her sexual orientation.

Ford told the Blade this week that the lead prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Alec Levi, was supportive of her throughout the case and told her a hate crime designation sometimes makes it more difficult to obtain a conviction if a case goes to trial. Ford said Levi told her prosecutors wanted to do all they could to bring Peterson to justice for his attack against her.

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District of Columbia

Longtime activist Lane Hudson arrested on drug charges

Homeland Security launched probe leading to August 2021 raid

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Lane Hudson was arrested last year on drug charges. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Documents filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia show that law enforcement officers with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations division and the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department arrested D.C. gay activist Thomas Lane Hudson on Aug. 11, 2021, on charges of possession with the intent to distribute illegal drugs.

An affidavit filed in court says the arrest took place at Hudson’s Logan Circle area apartment after officers forcibly entered the apartment when Hudson did not respond to their knocking on the door announcing their presence with a search warrant.

The affidavit says the officers discovered and seized illegal narcotics that were field tested and weighed and which included “1,096.4 grams of a mixture and substance containing Methamphetamine, a Schedule II controlled substance; 29.5 grams of a mixture and substance containing Heroin, a Schedule I controlled substance; and 322.974 fluid ounces of a mixture and substance containing Gamma Butyrolactone (‘GBL’), a Schedule I controlled substance.”

Court records show that Hudson was held without bond until at least Aug. 25, 2021, when U.S. District Court Judge Robin M. Meriweather approved a motion filed by prosecutors to seal the case from the public record on grounds that it “contains sensitive information regarding the underlying ongoing criminal investigation.”

The Aug. 25 entry that up until then was part of the public court record announcing the decision to seal the case did not disclose any information about an underlying or ongoing investigation. It also did not disclose why federal Homeland Security investigators became involved in a drug case ordinarily handled by D.C. police.

Hudson and his attorney, who is identified in the court records as Brian Keith McDaniel, did not respond to repeated requests by the Washington Blade for comment on the case and to disclose whether they dispute the accuracy of the charges filed against Hudson.

The arrest affidavit, which was filed before the case was sealed, remains a part of the public record. It says that in addition to the allegation that illegal drugs were seized from Hudson’s apartment, the officers conducting the search found “assorted items related to distribution of controlled substances.”

Among the items found, it says, were digital scales, plastic zip bags, vacuum sealer and vacuum sealer bags, a currency counting machine, and “approximately $48,000 in United States currency.” 

Although the public court records do not show whether Hudson was released while awaiting trial or was still being held, sources who know Hudson pointed out that he resumed posting messages on social media in December of 2021 after a period when no postings from him could be found. This suggests he has been released while the case remains pending.

Hudson’s arrest came less than a year before the D.C. Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance released its 2022 D.C. LGBTQ Election Guide called Leave No One Behind, which calls for the decriminalization of possession of currently illegal drugs for personal use.

Although the GLAA document doesn’t call for decriminalizing the selling of illegal drugs, it says “evidence demonstrates criminalization has done little to curb the prevalence of drugs in our communities and is not an effective way of getting people into treatment because it stigmatizes drug users.”

Hudson is well known in the D.C. area and among LGBTQ advocates locally and nationally. He was twice elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention; served on Hillary Clinton’s national finance committee; and once worked for the Human Rights Campaign. 

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District of Columbia

Hundreds attend Dupont Circle vigil for Colorado shooting victims

Clergy members join activists in denouncing ant-LGBTQ violence

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Hundreds showed up Monday night to remember Club Q victims. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Several hundred people turned out for a candlelight vigil in Dupont Circle Monday night to honor the five who died and at least 25 wounded in the mass shooting at an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colo., this past Saturday night.

Among those who participated in the vigil were eight ministers and two elders from local LGBTQ supportive churches.

The event took place shortly after Colorado authorities released the names of the five patrons of the Club Q nightclub who police said were shot to death by lone gunman suspect Anderson Lee Aldrich, 22, who was subdued by other patrons before police arrived on the scene and placed him under arrest.

“We’re going to take the time to heal, to process, to honor those victims, members of our own community,” said Larry Miller, news anchor for D.C.’s WUSA 9 TV, who served as moderator at the vigil.

“It will be tough,” Miller said in opening the event. “But we’ll do it together. If you need to cry this is an opportunity to do that,” he said. “If you need to pray, you’ll have that opportunity as well.”  

The vigil was organized jointly by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs; Capital Pride Alliance, the group that organizes D.C.’s LGBTQ Pride events; the Center for Black Equity, which organizes D.C.’s Black Pride events; the D.C. Center for the LGBT Community; and the Pride Fund to End Gun Violence.

“Today we are standing in solidarity with our queer family in Colorado Springs in the aftermath of a tragic and deadly shooting at Club Q,” Japer Bowles, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBTQ Affairs, told the gathering.

“However, gun violence and anti-LGBTQ hate will not stomp out our life,” Bowles said. “And even though we are mourning today and tomorrow and through the holidays where seats around the dinner table will be empty due to gun violence and anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, our love and our strength as a community will prevail.”

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Kenya Hutton, deputy director of the Center for Black Equity, which organizes D.C.’s Black Pride events, told those attending the Dupont Circle vigil he worries that a shooting incident like the one in Colorado Springs could happen anywhere, including in D.C.

“I’m tired of having to say the names of those we’ve lost for no reason,” he said. “We have legislators pushing all these anti-LGBTQ bills,” Hutton said. “We can’t sit by silently and let this continue.” 

Among the clergy members who spoke was Rev. Adalphie Johnson, Senior Pastor of the Community Church of Washington, D.C.

“I come here this evening with a heavy heart,” she said. “A heavy heart because we are still living in a world where folks need to understand what it means to love, what it means to allow people to be free, what it means to allow people to live their authentic self.”

Others who spoke included Mike Silverstein, a member of the Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission; Ryan Bos, executive director of Capital Pride Alliance; Ashley Smith, president of the Capital Pride Alliance Board of Directors and a member of the Human Rights Campaign board; Alexis Elizabeth Rodriguez, director of D.C.’s Latinx Pride organization; and D.C. artist and poet Reggie Rich.

Other clergy members who participated in the vigil included Rev. Aaron Wade, founder and Pastor Emeritus of the Community Church of Washington, D.C.; Rev. Amanda Hendler-Voss, Senior Minister at First Congressional United church of Christ; Rev. Dr. Arthur Cribbs Jr., Senior Pastor of Little River United Church of Christ; Rev. Dr. Sidney Fowler of United Church of Christ; and Rev. Kenneth King, Pastor serving New Hope Baptist Church and Plymouth Congressional United Church of Christ.

(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)
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